The freedoms we enjoy in America today originated in Judeo-Christian ideals that date back to long before the American Revolution. As we teach our families to appreciate those freedoms, we also have the privilege of introducing our children to the rich Christian heritage that so profoundly influenced the development of this young nation. Here are just a few highlights in American history of faith being the impetus for freedom.
Matthew Spalding, author of We Still Hold These Truths: Rediscovering Our Principles, Reclaiming Our Future, says, "Of the many influences that shaped the American concept of liberty, the first and most formative was faith." Indeed, America was the first country in all of history that was deliberately formed to protect and promote religious freedom. Our founders rightly noted that people don't give people freedom — God does.
In 1620 Pilgrims seeking to practice Christianity within their own political community wrote the Mayflower Compact. As stated in the Compact, their new colony was established "for the Glory of God and advancement of the Christian Faith."
The spirit of the Mayflower Compact is reflected in other national documents that would come later in American history, including the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In each of these documents, the dignity and value of every human being, a fundamental principle of the Christian faith, is reflected.
America's history is unique in that our founders designed a government to protect our God-given rights. Evidence of this intent can clearly be seen in the Declaration of Independence, where our founders penned these words: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness — that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."
Sadly, courts today seem intent on undermining the religious freedoms and Christian practices that were so vital to our Founding Fathers and early America's way of life. One example is the courts' intent to redefine the concept of the "wall of separation between church and state." This terminology was first used by Thomas Jefferson in a letter to explain that the First Amendment exists to protect religious freedom from government interference; this quote has since been dangerously twisted into government-sanctioned suppression of religious expression in the public square.
Our children need to know the truth about the influence of the Christian faith in American history. In fact, the very future of our nation depends on a revitalization of the free practice of Judeo-Christian principles in public life. Ben Franklin said it best when he publicly called for prayer during the Constitutional Convention in 1787. He said, "I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that 'except the Lord build the House, they labor in vain that build it.' "
As 21st century American families, let's be diligent in recognizing God's hand in the founding of our country, and commit to encouraging our nation's leaders to continue to seek God for wisdom and guidance as He continues to govern in the affairs of men.